The nostalgia column with Margaret Watson

Delivery Van: This picture, kindly provided by Stuart Hartley, shows one of Dewsbury's oldest grocery shop vans ' Lidbetters ' situated in Market Place. It was one of the first vehicles to be built here in Dewsbury.
Delivery Van: This picture, kindly provided by Stuart Hartley, shows one of Dewsbury's oldest grocery shop vans ' Lidbetters ' situated in Market Place. It was one of the first vehicles to be built here in Dewsbury.

ALL we seem to talk about these days is how everything is changing and how difficult it is to keep pace.

When strangers ask me for directions in Dewsbury town centre, I cannot tell them because everything has changed.

This cycle, pictured outside a shop in the Lake District, was used by Spikings in Bond Street to deliver groceries throughout the district.

This cycle, pictured outside a shop in the Lake District, was used by Spikings in Bond Street to deliver groceries throughout the district.

All the familiar landmarks and shops by which I’d have once directed them, are all gone, or have changed their names.

I used to know the name of every shop and building, as well as every picture house, of which there five all within a hundred yards of each other.

In those days we used to direct people to where they wanted to go by telling them to look for the names of certain shops and not by street names.

We would say – “It’s just opposite the Playhouse Cinema” or round the corner from J&Bs, or across the road from the Gas Showrooms.

Margaret Watson.

Margaret Watson.

Not anymore I’m afraid because they are all long gone, so I usually take them to where they want to go.

It’s better than telling them how to get there.

Anyone from Dewsbury reading this will know exactly what I am talking about because we never knew the names of the streets in the town centre, but we knew all the shops.

Yes, times change, and so do places, and we have to change with them I suppose if we don’t want to be left behind.

I remember when I first recognised the wind of change blowing through Dewsbury, and it coincided with the opening of Dewsbury’s first real supermarket – Asda Queens – in Thornhill Lees.

There are many in Dewsbury who will claim that MoneySave in Dewsbury Town Centre was the first supermarket of its kind, and perhaps it was, but Asda Queens was the first major one to have an impact.

The supermarket boom came in the 1960s and it was no surprise that local people started flocking there to take advantage of all the bargains.

Soon more supermarkets were opening in outlying areas as well like a massive one in Morley which even started providing special buses to take people there.

People stopped shopping at the small town centre shops where they had been going in great numbers for years.

It wasn’t long before Dewsbury had three supermarkets all within walking distance of the town centre, and they also started selling fresh meat and fish.

Butchers shops started closing and so did fish mongers, as well as grocery stores and cake shops.

Not only had these new supermarkets free car parks, but they also opened until late at night and, eventually on Sundays.

I remember when two of our best-known and long established grocery shops closed in Dewsbury – J. Lidbetters, founded in 1844, and Spikings, in Bond Street, founded in 1815.

Lidbetter’s had started in Market Place and remained on the same site for 123 years until it closed in 1967.

It was one of the first grocery businesses in the town centre to close but it was quickly followed by many more.

Lidbetters had always tried to keep up with the changes but competition became too strong.

When it first opened there were no packaged foodstuffs, and everything they sold was weighed out in front of the customer. They also roasted their own coffee beans.

And, like many quality grocery stores at that time, they also made home deliveries, usually to the gentry living on the outskirts of town.

As well as their shop in Market Place, next door to the Scarborough Hotel, they also had shops in Northgate and Halifax Road, and a wholesale department in Longcauseway.

Another well established grocery shop which closed because of competition from supermarkets, was Spikings in Bond Street.

I remember as a young journalist calling into this old-fashioned shop on my way to work in the early 1960s and seeing Mr Spiking, a perfect gentleman, standing behind the counter in his old-fashioned apron.

The shop smelled of ground coffee, and you never had to queue because there was never anyone inside. I now realise why?

The people of Dewsbury had stopped shopping there.

Spikings, like Lidbetters, also provided a home delivery service, but they just had a sturdy bicycle which the delivery boys used to ride round the district delivering to customers.

I was delighted some years back when Mr Michael Wilson spotted one of their cycles outside a shop in the Lake District, obviously a tourist attraction, and took a photograph which he kindly sent to me.

I’m sure just looking at it will gladden the eye of anyone from Dewsbury who remembers this lovely, little shop.

They will feel the same about the picture of Lidbetter’s van taken outside Dewsbury Town Hall, promoting Chiver’s English Fruits and Fruit Salad, kindly provided by Stuart Hartley.